by John Leach
It doesn’t take long to figure out that when Brett Bass, Jon Murphy and Mike Coker named their band Grandpa’s Cough Medicine they weren’t thinking about Robitussin. It’s also a pretty safe bet that they didn’t title this collection of songs The Murder Chord because they were hoping to get their music on a Walt Disney Co. film soundtrack. But, if you’re a whiskey drinkin’, gun totin’, hell raisin’, authority hatin’ redneck that loves his dog more than his family and might just kill for love, y’all just found yourselves some new bonfire ballads right here.
The instrumentation and delivery is traditional acoustic American bluegrass but the themes and lyrics send this material into outlaw territory faster than you can shoot a thief. Never shot a thief? GCM will tell you all about it on track 11 “Bullet For a Thief”, a track with a little bit more of a blues/rock sensibility than most of the disc. This track also gives the low down deep & dirty vocals a chance to really penetrate. A man with a voice like that could put the fear into Johnny Cash…
Track one, ‘Hillbilly Music’ sets the pace and theme for the rest of the disc. Tough lyrics like “Some folks call us crazy/and claim that we do drugs/well that may be but mostly/we get high on Flatt and Scruggs” are tough to misinterpret. Track two “American Dream” has it all – liquor bottles, beers, Florida homegrown, raging banjo and flaming fiddle that careen around each other like stock cars on a dirt track until a massive pile up leads straight to track three ‘Hurtin’.
For all the seriousness of most of the subject matter on the disc the band isn’t afraid to have a little dark humored fun on the title track. It’s a very well written tune about a young man that listens to heavy metal and kills his whole family when he hears “The Murder Chord”.
In the spirit of bluegrass greats like The Osborne Brothers, this record moves really fast. The production is very hot and shimmers with an emphasis on the high end twang of all the instrumentation. For the uninitiated it may be hard to keep up. But, for the alcoholically ambitious, the moonshine motivated, those smokers and tokers dying to discover how far out there bluegrass music can get, listen, learn, and pass this bastard around. Just, please, don’t kill anybody until after you hear track 15, ‘The Saddest Song No One Has Ever Heard’. It might bring it all back to earth before the big bang gets the best of ya. Speed kills man, especially when Grandpa’s Cough Medicine comes to town.
My wife in the next room just hollered at me “Y’know I hate hillbilly music but this stuff is really good. These guys have a lot of talent and the lyrics are very clever.” I wish she’d ‘a said somethin’ earlier – it woulda saved me five paragraphs…